ShopRite, Walgreens to offer vaccines for older Philadelphians, while Health Dept. takes over PFC clinic

A worker prepares a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine

In this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, file photo, a worker prepares a syringe with the COVID-19 vaccine. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

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Philadelphia residents aged 75 and older will be able to make COVID-19 vaccine appointments at two additional pharmacy chains starting later this week, health officials announced Tuesday, with information sent out to people who signed up at the city’s registry.

Meanwhile, the city Department of Public Health is taking over the Pennsylvania Convention Center mass vaccination clinic, where staff will administer second doses for the roughly 6,000 people who received their first doses from Philly Fighting COVID — the start-up whose relationship with the city imploded last week.

Officials declined to answer any more questions Tuesday on that evolving scandal, citing an ongoing investigation by Philadelphia’s inspector general.

Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley said the city is trying to ramp up vaccinations as much as possible with a still-limited supply.

Vaccines are now being given to eligible groups at more than 30 of the city’s federally qualified health centers, several city-run health clinics, and area hospitals, which are pivoting from inoculating staff only and starting to offer jabs to patients.

Recognizing the impact of the Philly Fighting COVID debacle on public trust in the Health Department, Farley asked for residents’ patience: “We ask people just to give us time to show that we can do it.”

He noted that in setting its priority schedule and deciding which groups get how much vaccine, there are three main tenets the Health Department is following.

“We’re trying to do this fast, we’re trying to do this in a way that will save the most lives, and we’re trying to do this with racial equity,” Farley said. “We have more work to do in each of those areas.”

How do you sign up with Walgreens or Rite Aid? City will reach out

Later this week, Commissioner Farley said, at least three ShopRite pharmacy locations and 20 Walgreens locations in Philadelphia will begin offering vaccinations. (That’s on top of the existing program run by Walgreens, Rite Aid and CVS, which continue to inoculate health care workers and people at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.)

First on the list for the new appointments are people over the age of 75. Those companies don’t want to post a link publicly, according to Farley, so the city will reach out to eligible residents who signed up through the city registry with details.

“We’ll be sending links to sign up for those who have email and calling people on the telephone who do not have internet access,” Farley said.

Other groups are now picking up the slack where Philly Fighting COVID left off. Before PFC was kicked out of the program, the start-up had administered 6% of the city’s vaccine supply, and without them, the pace of vaccination dropped noticeably.

The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium is now receiving more doses by week, Farley said, and he expects that volume to increase.

Farley said 15% of people vaccinated were African American — up from 8% when the data first began reporting demographic data. “It’s moving in the right direction,” he said, “but clearly not fast enough.”

The city’s total vaccine allotment from the federal government has remained around 20,000 doses per week, split between the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccines. Farley does not expect that allotment to increase for at least several more weeks. Organizations around the city have combined to give more than 140,000 vaccine doses to date, according to public data.

It remains unclear how many vaccines the city distributes to each of its providers, which will become a growing question as the roster of vaccine distributors continues to grow.

While the Pennsylvania Department of Health publishes a weekly breakdown of vaccine distribution, the local Health Department discloses this information piecemeal. Farley said he would look into releasing more data.

Broke in PhillyWHYY is one of over 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push towards economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

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